By making it twice to the podium at Monza, Tom Sykes has become a definite contender in the fight for the title of Superbike World Champion.
Superbike, Supersport Italy
Tom Sykes has finally found his stride. As in the Netherlands two weeks ago, the Kawasaki rider made it twice to the podium during the first Italian event of the World Superbike Championship. In a fight to the finish with Melandri, Laverty and Guintoli, the British rider rode to win until the very last lap before finally being placed second and third of the two races. And to top it all, Sykes turned in the lap record at 1’42″229 after winning his third Superpole in a row the day before, the fourteenth of his Superbike career. Loris Baz had less luck: placed seventh at the finish of the first race, the French rider stalled on the starting grid of the second. The incident forced him to start from the pit lane, but did not prevent him from moving up to eighth position. In Supersport, the race was interrupted three times by various accidents, one of which sent Fabien Foret to hospital. Kenan Sofuoglu also crashed after taking the lead in the last race.
After marking thirty-six points in Monza, Sykes is no more than eighteen points behind Sylvain Guintoli, the championship leader. Third overall, the British rider is looking forward to the next round to be held on home ground at Donington. Loris Baz has kept his sixth position. In the Supersport class, Foret has been overtaken in the championship by Sam Lowes. The unfortunate victim of one of the many clashes that marred the Italian race, the French rider is now six points behind the new leader. With a second DNF in a row, Sofuoglu holds fourth position, twenty-five points behind Lowes.
Is the Monza circuit too dangerous? The question is well worth asking once again after the World Superbike weekend was marred by numerous incidents. The Supersport race, for example, was stopped three times by the red flag because of clashes and crashes in the chicanes of a circuit commonly referred to as the “temple of speed”. “The problem with Monza is that a rider who falls in a chicane can easily cross the gravel and find himself back on the track again,” said one official. “That’s how we had such an incredible number of accidents this weekend.” Monza’s ultra-fast track also has several bends with exits that are too narrow and require the installation of inflatable barriers. The Italian circuit has been off the list of approved circuits for speed Grand Prix for years – and for good reason. Designed in 1922 by the Automobile Club of Milan, the Monza track today is 5.7 km long but has only ten bends, which speaks volumes about its configuration.
Since its inception, the circuit in the suburbs of Milan has also been the scene for the death of thirty-five spectators as well as fifty-two riders and drivers, including Alberto Ascari in 1955, Jochen Rindt in 1970, Renzo Pasolini and Jarno Saarinen in 1973.